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Cord cutting 101: How to quit cable for online streaming video

Once called an ‘experiment’ by prognosticating pundits in the past, live streaming TV has captured the attention of a wide audience, with Dish Network’s Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, and AT&T’s recently introduced DirecTV Now all in play. Channels and hit series that were once strictly bound by the confines of a cable subscription can now be accessed for a small monthly fee with no contract, no equipment rentals, and no crappy customer service to deal with. There’s never been a better time to kick cable to the curb.

Not everyone is cut out to be a “cord-cutter,” though. Ditching cable or satellite service and the bill that goes with it sounds great in theory, but it’s not something you want to rush into without doing a little research and preparation first. As with most things, there’s a right way to go about cord-cutting, and then there’s the way that sends you back to your cable company begging for forgiveness. We tend to prefer the right way … the awesome way.

Below is our quick compendium on how to make a smooth transition from a bloated cable package to a custom-curated entertainment utopia.

First things first: How’s your internet?

The thing about internet-delivered TV is that you need a broadband connection that’s copacetic with the streaming lifestyle. This may seem like a foregone conclusion, but we want to make it clear that if you’re going to bet your precious entertainment future on your network, you best have a solid hookup. Netflix and other similar streaming video services suggest downstream speeds of 5Mbps, but that’s simply not going to cut it for most folks, especially those with families that might want to stream more than one show or movie at a time.

When new cord-cutters are confronted with buffering, they are understandably frustrated.

Consider that 5Mbps may get you one HD video stream, but you may experience loading and buffering delays if your network is getting choked up with any other traffic. Cable TV doesn’t interrupt your show to buffer, so when new cord-cutters are confronted with delays, they are understandably frustrated. Avoid the buffer and upgrade your broadband speed if you can, otherwise it’s time to reconsider ditching cable.

We also recommend testing your internet speed at peak streaming hours (between 6 – 10 p.m. weekdays) to determine if your neighborhood struggles under the strain of heavy traffic. For instance, if you routinely get around 10Mbps downloads during the day, but that figure takes a dive to about 3MBps around dinner time, you’ll want to call your internet provider to see if anything can be done. Fortunately, this is an increasingly rare problem, but better to check ahead.

Of course, if you’re looking to get into the streaming big leagues to access the growing array of 4K Ultra HD streaming content available, you’ll want to kick up your broadband speed a few more notches. For streaming services like Netflix, YouTube, and Amazon you’ll likely want to have at least 25Mbps on hand (which is what Netflix explicitly recommends). If you’re only going to be downloading 4K content from sites like FandangoNow or Ultraflix, 10Mbps will probably suffice. In any event, fast and reliable internet is an integral key to a positive streaming experience.

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